Transcriptional regulation of macrophage cholesterol efflux and atherogenesis by a long noncoding RNA

Nat Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):304-312. doi: 10.1038/nm.4479. Epub 2018 Feb 12.


Nuclear receptors regulate gene expression in response to environmental cues, but the molecular events governing the cell type specificity of nuclear receptors remain poorly understood. Here we outline a role for a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) in modulating the cell type-specific actions of liver X receptors (LXRs), sterol-activated nuclear receptors that regulate the expression of genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis and that have been causally linked to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. We identify the lncRNA MeXis as an amplifier of LXR-dependent transcription of the gene Abca1, which is critical for regulation of cholesterol efflux. Mice lacking the MeXis gene show reduced Abca1 expression in a tissue-selective manner. Furthermore, loss of MeXis in mouse bone marrow cells alters chromosome architecture at the Abca1 locus, impairs cellular responses to cholesterol overload, and accelerates the development of atherosclerosis. Mechanistic studies reveal that MeXis interacts with and guides promoter binding of the transcriptional coactivator DDX17. The identification of MeXis as a lncRNA modulator of LXR-dependent gene expression expands understanding of the mechanisms underlying cell type-selective actions of nuclear receptors in physiology and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1 / genetics
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver X Receptors / genetics*
  • Liver X Receptors / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • ABCA1 protein, mouse
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter 1
  • Liver X Receptors
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Cholesterol
  • Ddx17 protein, mouse
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases